“A good effect in worrying the enemy”: Demonstrations on the Stono and Edisto Rivers, January 1865

Earlier this week I mentioned several demonstrations that took place along the coast of South Carolina in the last days of January 1865.  One of these demonstrations lead to the loss of the USS Dai Ching.  Less costly, and more important to the overall Federal efforts, were two demonstrations which for all practical purposes were “showings.”  The operations on the Stono and Edisto Rivers were indeed “demonstrations” in every sense of the word.

The Stono River demonstration evolved from a request by Brigadier-General Alexander Schimmelfennig.  Throughout January the Federal outposts behind Morris Island reported increased Confederate activity.  The fear was the Confederates were setting up new batteries on James Island.  Due to Schimmelfennig’s reduced garrison manpower, he requested a gunboat venture up the Stono River.  The first attempt, on January 24, failed outright, as “the permission to do so having been sent by Admiral [John] Dahlgren through the signal corps in the common code, the enemy was informed of our intention….” Though enough information was gleaned to verify no new batteries were in place, the Federals felt the need to put more pressure on the Confederates on James Island.

Jan65Stono

On January 28, the gunboat USS Commodore McDonough tried the Stono again.  Lieutenant-Commander Alex F. Crosman, commanding, reported:

… I went up the river as far as the point of woods about 3,000 yards from Fort Pringle, with which work I exchanged numerous shots.

Most of my shell fell inside of the work, and Pringle replied with but two heavy guns, which I am confident were smoothbore.  Not a shell exploded near me, but though some of the enemy’s shot were very fairly directed. They were all, I think, solid shot.

Feeling the woods occasionally as I moved up with shell and grape, I sent the boat’s crew ashore and burned successively the Legaré’s house and the house and outbuildings on the wooded points in whose vicinity the Pawnee lay last July.

Crosman remained at arm’s length from the Confederate batteries.  The houses on James Island again suffered (nearby Legareville being burnt the previous summer).  He reported expending twelve IX-inch shells, thirteen 6.4-inch Parrott rounds (shell and case shot), twenty-four 50-pdr Dahlgren shells, two stands of IX-inch grapeshot, one 6.4-inch canister, and one 24-pdr howitzer canister.  The use of grape, canister, and case shot to “feel” the woods near the shore was a standard tactic for the gunboats when in close proximity to Confederate lines.  Summing up his activities, Crosman noted:

I am convinced there are no new works on John’s Island, and also that Fort Pringle is not so formidable as it was in July last.  No torpedoes are in the river yet, as I went up purposely at dead low water to endeavor to discover them.

While Crosman probed the Stono, further to the west on Edisto Island, another expedition, this one a joint Army-Navy operation, tested Confederate defenses in that sector.  Major-General John Foster ordered Brigadier-General Edward E. Potter “… to proceed to Edisto Island, and with the Thirty-second U.S. Colored Troops, already landed there, to make a strong demonstration towards Willstown, on the South Edisto River….”   Knowing the Confederates retained significant garrisons guarding the railroad and roads between Willstown and Adams’ Run, Foster hoped this would distract from the Salkehatchie.  Major-General William T. Sherman would approve and add that the demonstration should look as “a lodgement seemingly to cover the disembarkation of a large body.”

Unlike the demonstration mounted in July 1864 in the same area, Potter was directed to move by way of Jehossee Island.

Jan65Edisto

However, when he arrived at Edisto Island, Potter had second thoughts about that route.  Instead, after conferring with Commander George B. Balch, commanding the naval forces operating in the North Edisto, Potter decided to move by way of White Point Landing. This, of course, put Potter’s force directly against some of the Confederate defenses which stalled Federal advances the previous July.  So on the evening of January 29, the 32nd USCT moved up river to that place under cover of the USS Sonoma, USS Pawnee, and USS Daffodil.  Reporting on January 30, Balch wrote:

At 8 a.m. this morning, at General Potter’s request, we opened fire for an hour, at the expiration of which time his troops advanced, accompanied by a light 12-pounder of the Sonoma.  There has been occasional firing from the howitzer and the infantry, but not heavy enough to lead one to suppose that the enemy is in strong force.

Potter simply intended to get the attention of the Confederates then fall back to White Point.  After advancing a short distance, they ran up against a well positioned battery.  By 7 p.m. the force was back at the landing and embarking back on the ships.  To cover the activity on land, Balch sent the tug Daffodil up Dawho Creek.  He’d also posted the Sonoma upriver.   “I believe this movement of General Potter will have a good effect in worrying the enemy,” Balch reported.

Potter’s force remained on Edisto Island the next few days.  A provisional brigade of around 1,400 in number formed under Potter.  Two other regiments, the 55th Massachusetts and 144th New York, joined  the 32nd USCT.  Over the next few days these troops would make the impression desired – of an advanced covering force preceding a landing.

But for all the fluster, these demonstrations appear to have little impact on the Confederates.  Instead it was the crossing of the Savannah River at Sister’s Ferry that had their attention.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, page 1013; Part II, Serial 99, pages 140 and 151; ORN, Series I, Volume 16, pages 204 and 206.)

Guns pointed at Sherman: Confederate artillery dispositions in South Carolina, January 1865

Colonel Ambrosio José Gonzales served as the Chief of Artillery for the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida through much of the war. Gonzales was an exiled Cuban revolutionary when the war began, living in South Carolina.  And of course, at the onset of hostilities, he volunteered his services to the seceded state.

I’ve mentioned this interesting officer on several occasions while plotting the 150th events – most often in regard to his periodic reports of ordnance available to defend Charleston and other points in the department.  On January 19, 1865, Gonzales submitted one such report.  The timing provides a snapshot of the Confederate defenses opposing the Federal offensive into South Carolina.

The report was complied in a tabular format, making it difficult to reproduce here without a lot of white space and tabs.  So I’ll break down the particulars in a “fort by fort” format below.  Most of these works I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, so I’ll ask you to look back at some of those for particulars of the defensive arrangements.  Working, as the report did, from north to south through the department, we start with the defenses north of Charleston:

  • Battery White, protecting Georgetown, South Carolina, contained three rifled 32-pdr guns, six 24-pdr smoothbore guns, two rifled 12-pdr guns, one 12-pdr siege gun, and one 6-pdr field gun. The report thus indicates the 10-inch columbiads placed there earlier in the war had been removed by January 1865.
  • Battery Warren, on the Santee River had one 12-pdr rifle and one 32-pdr smoothbore.

Around Charleston itself, starting with the works on Sullivan’s Island:

Sullivans_Island_Batteries

  • Battery Marshall – two 8-inch columbiads, one 7-inch Brooke rifle, one 32-pdr rifle, two 12-pdr rifles (one of which was the old English gun), a 4-inch Blakely rifle, three 8-inch seacoast howitzers, and one 12-pdr siege gun.
  • Two Gun Batteries, four in total, with four 32-pdr and four 24-pdr smoothbores.
  • Battery Beauregard – one 10-inch columbiad, one 8-inch rifled columbiad, one 8-inch columbiad, three 8-inch seacoast howitzers, two rifled 32-pdrs, one 32-pdr smoothbore, two 24-pdr smoothbores, and three 10-inch mortars.
  • Battery Rutledge -three 10-inch columbiads and one rifled columbiad (8 or 10-inch).
  • Fort Moultrie – four 10-inch columbiads, two rifled 8-inch columbiads, one rifled 32-pdr, and one 10-inch mortar.
  • Battery Marion – three 10-inch columbiads, a 7-inch Brooke Rifle, one 8-inch columbiad, and five 10-inch mortars.
  • Battery Bee – one XI-inch Dahlgren, one 10-inch rifled columbiad, four 10-inch columbiads, and one 8-inch columbiad.

Behind Sullivan’s Island were the defenses of the Christ Church District:

  • Battery Evans – one 32-pdr smoothbore.
  • Battery Palmetto – one IX-inch Dahlgren.
  • Battery Gary – two 8-inch columbiads.
  • Battery Kinloch – one 32-pdr smoothbore.
  • Christ Church Lines – two 20-pdr Parrott rifles, two 8-inch shell guns and two 24-pdr smoothbore guns.

Fort Sumter’s armament at this point was one 10-inch columbiad, one 8-inch rifled columbiad, and four rifled 42-pdrs in those “three gun batteries.” Castle Pinckney contained four 10-inch columbiads and one 7-inch Brooke rifle.

Defending the city of Charleston itself were a formidable array of batteries along the waterfront:

  • Battery Waring – two 10-inch columbiads.
  • Battery Ramsey (White Point Battery) – one XI-inch Dahlgren, one 12.75-inch Blakely, one 42-pdr rifle, and three 10-inch columbiads.
  • Frazer’s Wharf Battery with one 12.75-inch Blakely.
  • Calhoun Street Battery with one rifled 8-inch columbiad.
  • Vanderhorst’s Wharf Battery with one 7-inch Brooke rifle and one 42-pdr rifled gun.
  • Half-Moon Battery with one 42-pdr rifle and one 32-pdr rifle.
  • Spring-Street Battery – one 10-inch columbiad.
  • Battery over the Ashley – one 10-inch columbiad.

On James Island, the fortifications still bristled with guns defending that approach to Charleston:

JamesIslandLinesMay64East

  • Battery Wampler – two 10-inch columbiads.
  • Battery Harleston – three 10-inch columbiads, one 7-inch Brooke rifle, and one 6.4-inch Brooke rifle.
  • Battery Glover – three 8-inch rifled columbiads.
  • Fort Johnson – two 10-inch columbiads, one rifled 10-inch columbiad, one rifled 8-inch columbiad, one 7-inch Brooke Rifle, and two 24-pdr Austrian howitzers.
  • Battery Simkins – two 8-inch columbiads, two 6.4-inch Brooke rifles, and three 10-inch mortars.
  • Battery Cheves – three 8-inch columbiads.
  • Battery Haskell – one 8-inch columbiad, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer, two 42-pdr carronades, one rifled 32-pdr fitted as a mortar, and two 6-pdr field guns.
  • Battery Tatum – one 32-pdr smoothbore and two 24-pdr Austrian howitzers.
  • Battery Ryan – one 32-pdr smoothbore, one rifled 24-pdr, five 24-pdr Austrian howitzers.
  • Redoubt No. 1 – one 8-inch columbiad and one 32-pdr smoothbore.
  • Fort Lamar – three 8-inch columbiads, one 32-pdr rifle, two 32-pdr smoothbore, and one 18-pdr smoothbore.
  • Secessionville – one 8-inch siege howitzer, one 42-pdr smoothbore, two 32-pdr rifles, three 32-pdr smoothbores, one 24-pdr rifle, one 24-pdr smoothbore, one rifled 18-pdr, and two 6-pdr field guns.

JamesIslandLinesMay64West

  • The “New Lines” with six specific battery locations (Battery Seroy was named “Battery No. 0” in this report – two 8-inch columbiads, two 8-inch seacoast howitzers, 8-inch siege howitzer, four 32-pdr smoothbores, eight 24-pdr smoothbores, two 18-pdr smoothbores, two 12-pdr rifles, and three 12-pdr smoothbores.
  • Battery Tynes – two 8-inch columbiads and one rifled 42-pdr.
  • Battery Pringle – two 10-inch columbiads, two 8-inch columbiads, two rifled 42-pdrs, and two rifled 32-pdrs.
  • Fort Trendholm – two 10-inch columbiads, one rifled 8-inch gun, two rifled 42-pdrs, two rifled 32-pdrs, two 32-pdr smoothbores, two 24-pdr smoothbores, and six 6-pdr field guns.

Covering the approaches to Charleston from the southwest, via the Edisto River:

SaintAndrewsParrishDefenses

  • Battery Washington – one 32-pdr smoothbore, one 24-pdr smoothbore, and one 18-pdr smoothbore.
  • Battery Haig – two 24-pdr smoothbores.
  • Battery Wilkes – one 24-pdr smoothbore.
  • Battery Geddes – one 24-pdr smoothbore.
  • Battery Palmer – one 8-inch columbiad, two 32-pdr smoothbores, two 24-pdr smoothbores, and one 12-pdr smoothbore.
  • Overflow works – one 32-pdr smoothbore, three 24-pdr smoothbores, and one 12-pdr smoothbore.

Further to the southwest, along the Charleston & Savannah Railroad:

  • Church Flats – two 12-pdr smoothbores and one 8-inch shell gun.
  • Pineberry – one 32-pdr smoothbore and one 4.62-inch rifle.
  • Willstown – one 32-pdr smoothbore, one rifled 24-pdr, and two 3.5-inch Blakely rifles.
  • Caw Caw – two 24-pdr smoothbore.
  • Stock’s Causeway – one 12-pdr smoothbore and one 4.75-inch smoothbore siege gun.
  • Ashepoo battery – one 24-pdr rifle, one rifled 18-pdr, and one rifled 12-pdr.
  • Burnett’s – one 4.62-inch rifle, two rifled 32-pdrs and one 32-pdr smoothbore.
  • Dawson’s Bluff – one 24-pdr smoothbore and one 3-inch rifle.

Beyond those works, curiously Gonzales reported a battery at Red Bluff, which had been abandoned in December including one 8-inch Columbiad and two 24-pdr rifled guns.  Those guns were withdrawn, with great effort, by Major-General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry after the fall of Savannah.  Likewise, Gonzales listed two 24-pdr Austrian howitzers and one 24-pdr flank howitzer at Old Pocotaligo, which had been withdrawn a few days before the report’s date.

In Florida, the Confederates maintained works on the Appalacicola River (five 32-pdr smoothbores and six 24-pdr smoothbores) and St. Mark’s (two 32-pdr rifles and two 32-pdr smoothbores).

In addition to those listed above, Gonzales noted twenty 6-pdr guns, six James rifles, and two 12-pdr howitzers distributed around the department at fixed positions in undesignated posts.

The cannon listed in Gonzales’ January 19 report were all fixed in fortifications.  While some weapons were field guns or could be adapted for field use, in most cases the garrisons lacked sufficient equipment and horses to move them with a field army.  In an earlier report, dated January 6, 1865, Gonzales detailed the field batteries in the department:

  • 14th Battalion Georgia Artillery, Company B, Captain Ruel W. Anderson, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Georgia Regulars Battalion, Company C, Captain A. Smith Barnwell, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Beaufort Light Artillery, Captain H.M. Stuart, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Chatham Light Artillery, Captain John F. Wheaton, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Chesnut Light Artillery, Captain Frederick C. Schulz, four 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Georgia Regulars Battalion, Company B, Captain Charles Daniell, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Palmetto Artillery, Battery G, Captain W.L. DePass, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Furman Light Artillery, Captain William E. Earle, one 12-pdr Napoleon, two 12-pdr howitzers, and one 10-pdr Parrott.
  • German Artillery, Company A, Captain F.W. Wagener, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Bachman’s German Artillery, Captain W.K. Bachman, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Guerard’s (Georgia) Battery, Captain John M. Guerard, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Inglis Light Artillery, Captain William E. Charles, four 6-pdr field guns.
  • Kilcrease Light Artillery, Captain F.L. Villepigue, two 12-pdr howitzers and two 6-pdr field guns.
  • Lafayette Light Artillery, Captain J.T. Kanapaux, four 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Leon Light Artillery, Captain Robert H. Gamble, two 12-pdr howitzers and two 3-inch rifles.
  • Louisiana Guard Artillery, Captain Camille E. Girardey, four 12-pdr Napoloens and two 3.5-inch Blakely rifles.
  • Marion Light Artillery, Captain Edward L. Parker, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Milton Light Artillery, Company A, Captain Joseph L. Dunham, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Milton Light Artillery, Company B, Captain Henry F. Abell, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Orleans Guard Artillery, Captain G. LeGardeur, Jr., two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Georgia Regulars Battalion, Company A, Captain J.A. Maxwell, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Santee Light Artillery, Captain Christopher Gaillard, two 6-pdr field guns and two 3-inch rifles.
  • Terrell Light Artillery, Captain John W. Brooks, four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Waccamaw Light Artillery, Captain Mayham Ward, two 12-pdr howitzers and two 6-pdr field guns.
  • Wagner Light Artillery, Captain Charles E. Kanapaux, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 12-pdr howitzers.
  • Washington (South Carolina) Light Artillery, Captain George H. Walter, two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Section supporting Colonel Colcock’s cavalry, Lieutenant Richard Johnson, two 12-pdr Napoleons.

So the field batteries included fifty-nine Napoleons, five 10-pdr Parrotts, four 3-inch rifles, two Blakely rifles, twenty-eight 12-pdr howitzers, and ten 6-pdr field guns.  This gave Lieutenant-General William Hardee 108 cannon to support the mobile forces charged with opposing Sherman’s advance into South Carolina.

In total, 322 fixed and 108 field artillery pieces opposed the Federals as the embarked on the march into South Carolina.  In Sherman’s two wings, the Federals brought only 68 field guns.  Yet, much like they say about real estate, when it comes to artillery on the battlefield it is all about “location, location, location.”  With less infantry and cavalry to oppose the Federals, the Confederates could not bring their numerical advantage in artillery to bear.

(Gonzales’ reports appear in OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part II, Serial 99, pages 992 and 1024-6.)

Confederates start work on Fort Trenholm, the last important addition to Charleston’s defenses

On September 13, 1864, Major-General Samuel Jones sent, by way of his Assistant Adjutant-General, an order to Brigadier-General Beverly Robertson, commanding the Second and Sixth Military Districts of South Carolina:

General: The engineers are just about commencing the erection of a work on John’s Island opposite Battery Pringle. The force on James Island has been very much reduced, and if the enemy attempt to drive away the working parties, as they probably will, they may succeed, unless assistance is given by you.

The major-general commanding, therefore, directs you to send to this point as large a cavalry force as you can to protect the working parties and keep up a picket-line as near Legareville as practicable to guard against any sudden advance of the enemy, and prevent the escape of the negroes employed. If you can do so, send also a section of artillery with orders to retire into the new works; if forced back the cavalry to retire by the river road on John’s Island.

The fortification mentioned in this order would eventually receive the name “Fort Trenholm.”  If you’ve been following my descriptions of the Charleston defenses, as they evolved 150 years ago, you are familiar maps such as this:

Fort Trenholm

You see Fort Trenholm on the far left and on the west side of the Stono River. In the past, I’ve displayed these maps with the caveat that the maps depicted the final state of works around Charleston.  Well, this was the last major fortification added to the Confederate lines defending Charleston.  Now I can say, the map depicts what was there 150 years ago as we’ve caught up!

As described in the order, Fort Trenholm complemented Battery Pringle.  During all the activity in July 1864, the Confederates realized just what Rear-Admiral Dahlgren observed – if the Federals had the forces to occupy John’s Island, they could make Battery Pringle untenable. So this addition to the far right of the Confederate line secured a vulnerable flank.  When completed, any Federal warships attempting to move up the Stono River would have a crossfire to contend with.  Not unlike that which caused the capture of the USS Isaac Smith in January 1863.

Robertson’s orders required him to secure John’s Island with a picket line down to Legareville during the construction of the works.  In part, that was to keep the Federals from interfering, but also to prevent the escape of laborers employed in the work.  But for the most part, the Federals, with limited resources, were not in a position to contest this addition to the line.

Being the last major fort built outside Charleston, Fort Trenholm never received a full complement of guns.  But despite being built so late in the war, the works survived and is still there today, just north of the Charleston Airport:

While protected within the boundaries of the airport, unfortunately its location makes close inspection rather difficult.  But it is there, as a mark of war.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 622-3.)